Work and money in short supply this Labor Day

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:05

Local people talk about coping in a tough economy Chester — Labor Day honors our nation’s working people. But with unemployment rates stubbornly sticking above 9 percent, Sept. 5 will, for many, be more somber than celebratory. Local folks working and shopping at the ShopRite Plaza in Chester recently said they're cutting back on spending and putting plans on hold. The economy “definitely has affected me," said Bridget Vertescher of Monroe, who works as a sales clerk in Payless Shoes in Chester. "I have to set aside a certain amount of money each week just for gas alone. I travel 15 to 20 minutes between my house and here for work and, you know — once a week, twice a week, fill up.” She said she dropped out of community college because she couldn’t afford to take on another loan while still paying off her previous college loan. She said she's stopped buying things that she doesn't absolutely need. "Sometimes I’ll skip grocery shopping because if I don’t have a long list, why am I going to spend that money if I can wait another week?” she said. Ann Marie Lovoccetta of Warwick was at Payless doing some back-to-school shopping with her daughters. Her husband works for a union, Local 3-Electricians IBEW. "The economy is horrible," she said. "It’s been very difficult. My husband is out of work a good part of the year. They kind of rotate the men. So we have to be really be careful about our spending. It’s tough." Like many people, her family is looking for bargains. “We try to cut back in any way we can," she said. "We make a lot of trips in one shot. We try to conserve gas. We shop in cheaper places for the kids' clothes.” Mindy Glod from Warwick was exercising at Curves. The economy has curtailed her family’s travel and purchasing plans. She is working multiple jobs to keep up. “I have one full-time and two part-time jobs," she said. "I have three children in college and we’re paying for college tuition. It’s affected us in as much that we don’t travel like we used to. We don’t buy new automobiles like we used to.” Bill Fernhead of Goshen was picking up groceries in ShopRite with his wife, Leona. He had a more sanguine outlook. “Personally, being retired, it probably hasn’t affected me in a lot of ways as much as other people," he said. "We’re pretty stable with our housing and other expenses, and have a steady income. The interest rates are low, which helps us a little bit." But he knows the economy has made life difficult for family and friends. He said stock market losses have affected them. "Our 401K is in that, and that’s being depleted, as we know," he said. "You just gotta hang in and not worry about daily ups and downs and just go with the flow a little bit.” Out-of-touch politicians Another customer, Dawn of Bloomingburg, said her husband lost his 401K because of the stock market. Forthoffer was laid off after eight years working for a public school district. It took her three months to find a job. She feels especially sorry for senior citizens and young adults raising children. And she blames politicians. "You can’t afford what they’re trying to do to all of us," she said. "As gas prices go up, food goes up. Then you’re trying to make ends meet and you have your food bill and your gas bill coming out at the same time. Yet they can sit there and squander the money down in D.C. by putting in their little perks and quirks that they want — for their funds, for their extravaganzas, for their little trips. "They don’t think about the middle class people who are working, who can’t take a vacation." she added. "The younger generation’s trying to save so they can get a house, move out on their own. They can’t. And seniors are out on their own. But where’s their income coming from? And they just want to raise everything." She consolidates trips to save money. “I came here to Chester today to go to Tractor Supply, so of course, I’m going to do everything here so that when I go home, I go home," she said. John Sala of Warwick, who was food shopping with his wife, Helen, is in the real estate business. "My wife and I are in our 50s now," he said. "My last child is graduating from college. We felt that at this point in our lives we’d be retired, sold our properties and live a better life in Florida or North Carolina and live off of what we had invested in real estate. But today, those investments are about 30 percent or 40 percent less than they were five years ago. So we both have to work. Health insurance is really hard on a 50-year-old who’s not working if you don’t have a pension. I don’t think people are grateful enough to know that their health insurance that they get from the city, state or government any other municipality is worth every penny in gold. You see a lot of union, a lot of city, state and federal employees thinking they deserve full health benefits. And my personal opinion is, in the '80s, it was a privilege to work for government. I worked for the government then. Anybody who works for the government should always feel it’s a privilege to work for the public. And the public today doesn’t have health insurance, but the people who work for the public do.” Some small business owners are bucking the trend of closing stores. Sisters Dawn and Diane Costello opened their apparel shop, The Clothesline, in the mall just three months ago. “We thought there was a need in this area, especially with the economy and gas prices," Dawn said. "Local people would be able to stop here first instead of taking a trip further than necessary." She said her work helps her manage. "Actually, the more we’re here, the less we spend out there," she said. "It’s our solution. We’re not driving anywhere we’re not buying anything. So really in a strange way, this occupies our time and keeps us from spending money.”